Pacific Crest Trail (2018) 63: The Feeling of a Distracted Parent

Wednesday, August 01, 2018 – 13.10 miles

The morning was forest walking, with a spattering of day hikers like pilot fish signalling the approach of Timberline Lodge. I needed to dig a cathole in the early afternoon, so I left the trail and started bushwhacking uphill. Eventually I decided to drop my backpack and collect it on the way back. I found a decent spot to dig, did my business and started back to the trail… and got disoriented and missed my pack.

I found the PCT and tried to retrace my steps, but couldn’t see my pack anywhere in the area I thought it was in. I knew where I had gone up the slope at least, so I widened my search perimeter and kept looking. I don’t know how long I searched, but it was getting to the point when I was thinking about how many hours I had left before dark (many). Finally, when I was about to return to the trail from the area I was searching, I looked uphill and spotted the pack in an unexpected spot. I hadn’t walked in the angle I had thought I took at all. I kissed the pack and promised that I would never leave it alone again. Definitely it was the feeling of a parent who has just found a child they lost in a shopping mall.

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The forest opened up with the peak of Mt. Hood straight ahead. It’s a dramatic mountain and a strange one – it looks like a heap of volcanic ash.

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Perhaps the source of the haze the last few days was the ash, since when I looked south, I could see it blowing like smoke into the sky.

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Mt. Jefferson in the haze

Mt. Hood’s glaciers feed rivers in deep ravines and every so often a rock is dislodged from one side and tumbles into the water in a cloud of ash. I sat at a viewpoint for awhile, earning myself a faceful of grit.

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A potential campsite nearby was more sheltered. I pitched my tent there, but the wind worsened and the stakes wouldn’t stay in the ground even with rocks on top – the ash was so loose that the wind pulled the stakes through the ground. I threw my gear into my pack in a hurry, since the time was after six, and continued up the trail.

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There were no campsites with hard ground and shelter until the established sites near Timberline Lodge, which are pretty shameless. eTrails says that by trail they’re 0.3 miles from the lodge, but hikers could re-enact Rear Window in these sites. A group of four got here just before me and took the good sites, but my stakes are staying in the ground in this one, and that’s good enough. Even though there’s toilet paper beneath a rock (sob). I climbed up to a little watchtower to watch the sunset and eat a cold supper. Too late and too windy to cook.

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